I know there are many people here in our community that will feel completely opposite to me on this, but in 2012, my biggest issue was trying to figure out how to divide my limited time amongst a bunch of great games. In the past, even with many options to consider, the notion of having to pay subscriptions for different games helped make the choice easier. This year, we’ve seen a number of AAA MMOs either go or launch free-to-play in some manner or another and this combined with a banner year for the MMO genre made 2012 truly stand out.
The concepts that make up your typical MOBA game appear to be almost universal in their appeal to gamers, but not all of us are gifted with the ability to wrangle it all from the control scheme and interface of an RTS. This is where Hi-Rez Studios’ SMITE comes in. SMITE perfectly combines action RPG/MMO combat and perspective with the concepts of a MOBA. Throw in some cool mythological themes and you’ve got a great crossover game for MOBA aficionados and newbies alike.
Technically, Star Wars: The Old Republic released in 2011. However, given the fact the game came out just a few short days before the turn of the new year and also re-launched as a free-to-play MMO in 2012, it still makes my list.
Of all the MMOs I’ll be mentioning in my list today, nothing has occupied more of my time than SWTOR in both 2011 and 2012. While the game’s foundation and gameplay concepts don’t push the MMO genre forward much, the theme, central focus on storyline and presentation values have done a great deal to hold my attention over the long term.
Despite a tumultuous first year, the game’s free-to-play re-launch offers SWTOR a second chance to make a better impression on gamers, and if things go well, strong continued development support from EA.
It was just a few short years ago that we were constantly being told that MMOs couldn’t handle “action combat” and we’d have to settle with the sandwich combat so prevalent throughout the genre. Fast forward to 2012 and we’ve seen SOE execute a proper MMOFPS with tight FPS combat and scale so large it puts the Battlefield series to shame.
Is PlanetSide 2 perfect? Not at all. But you really need not look any further than PS2 if you’ve got a soft spot for truly epic FPS warfare.
Nestled between En Masse Entertainment’s TERA and behemoth Guild Wars 2 was the launch of Funcom’s dark fantasy MMO, The Secret World. TSW is a true melding of Ragnar Tornquist’s pedigree in creating adventure games and MMO game concepts, with a niche, but compelling setting. While the game’s combat isn’t exactly its best feature, the adventure game concepts (including incredibly in-depth puzzle-based quests and dungeon gameplay) and other innovative features, really set TSW apart from its contemporaries.
Unfortunately, The Secret World really couldn’t have launched at a worse time and despite frequent and significant game updates over the subsequent months, TSW couldn’t find the success Funcom was looking for. Like SWTOR, TSW will now have its chance to capture gamers’ attention with many of the year’s MMO releases behind us and an extremely bold move by Funcom to shift the game’s business model to a Guild Wars 2-like buy-to-play model.
ArenaNet sought to turn the MMO genre on its head with Guild Wars 2 by tossing out tired MMO tropes in lieu of a much more social and engaging experience. How successful they were in doing this is often up for heated discussion here on our forums, but I definitely feel that Guild Wars 2 made good on its promise to offer a dynamic game world focused more on giving players the carrot over the stick.
Whether its Guild Wars 2’s approachable business model, engaging dynamic events, nuanced combat system, or seamlessly social gameplay, there’s a lot to love in ArenaNet’s contribution to the MMO genre.
Follow Mike on Twitter at @eMikeB.